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Special thanks to: Cafe, Darren Lin

This overview is published in both English and Chinese to offer non-Chinese friends the hottest information about BENQ's featured Windows Mobile phone -- The BENQ P50.

On Jun. 9th, 2005, BENQ finally introduced their new Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC, the P50, and announced that it will be available on the market soon.

Like the consumers, we were also eager to know all about the P50. So we got our hands on a review set and now, we're proud to present you this article. :D

Here comes BENQ's new WM 2003 Phone, the P50!

Did you notice that, it now sports a new black look?

Remember this article? It offered little information about P50, leaving much to the imagination. After repeated hardware/firmware testing, now the P50 comes not only with performance, but with stablility as well. This may well explain why it has been late to appear on the market, even after the release of Windows Mobile 5.

Featuring Wi-Fi, GSM module, Bluetooth, built-in thumb keyboard, a decent process memory and battery life in a slim package, BENQ looks set to provide business professionals with a great choice with the P50. Let's have a brief view of the hardware specifications.

Hardware Specifications

Text above: CPU: Version, Page size, Freq.; Memory module: ROM, RAM

From the screenshot above, we can see that P50 uses PXA27x as its CPU, which offers a guaranteed performance.

The camera

The SD slot which supports SDIO, at the left is the recharge plug, the small hole above the SD slot is the reset button

P50's SD module supports SDIO, meaning that you can insert SDIO cards like SD GPS to expand its capability. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, the P50 has more flexibility in accessing the Internet. The 1.3M pixel CMOS camera provides the functions of photo shooting and video recording. Though the P50's 2.8" screen is wide enough, the QVGA resolution proves to be a downside as it is not able to show everything clearly.

The QWERTY keyboard

For Chinese language users like me, the QWERTY keyboard is not too useful since Chinese IME support is disabled. However, it's convenient enough to type in English, as you can press the keys with two thumbs. However, when switched into landscape mode, the keyboard becomes useless. It's an advantage, but also a disadvantage.

The four buttons above the QWERTY keyboard are "Call/Accept", "Contacts", "Appointments", and "No/Decline", while in the middle is the five-way navigating joystick. The "Contacts" and "Appointments" buttons function are interchangeable. At the bottom left of the QWERTY keyboard are function keys: "Shift", "Menu/Tab", "Start Menu", and "Speech Commander". We'll introduce the Speech Commander in a later part of this article.


The keyboard in the dark

There's one more thing worth mentioning. When the P50 is operated in a dim environment, you'll find that the keyboard backlight glows not just gently, but strikingly.

The Power button and IrDA transmission module

The Recording and Volume buttons

The Camera button

Buttons at the phone's sides are "Power", "Record", "Volume Up/Down", and "Camera". The switch on left side is "Battery Lock", which is used to ensure that the battery is installed properly, otherwise it will show a warning message like this:

The warning message

However, the warning message shows a short while... I guess it's a technical glitch, let's just hope it will be corrected by the time it appears on the market.

Though P50 has not too many applications built in, it still has good functionality. In this article we'll introduce its built-in programs, and in the next part, some useful utility programs which enhance the experience of using the P50.

Built-in Programs

Although the built-in programs that the P50 has are few, they serve their purpose well. These programs can be classified as below: "SIM Applications", "Phone Applications", and "Daily Life Applications".

SIM Applications

For a mobile phone, SIM card tools are necessary. However, Windows Mobile phone edition doesn't have them. As a result, BENQ has made 3 simple SIM applications into the P50. They are "SIM STK", "SIM Phonebook", "SIM SMS".

Left: SIM STK menu
Right: Selected function 3; Button text: "Dial", "Cancel"

Left: SIM Phonebook;
--- Column text: "Name", "Phone Num.", "Index";
--- Text in the content menu: "Add", "Edit", "Delete", "Dial"; Button text: "Sel. All", "Copy to Phone"
Mid.: Phone numbers in the Contact;
--- Column text: "Name", "Number", "Num. Category";
--- Button text: "Sel. All", "Copy to SIM"
Right: SIM SMS; Column text: "Index", "Sender", "Content";
--- Button text: "Delete", "Copy to Phone"

The programs are simple enough, so we don't have to go into details about them.

Phone Applications

There are some programs built into the P50 to enhance or add on to its functions, such as: "Caller Picture", "Ringtone Settings", "JAVA Manager", "Speech Commander", and "Pocket Genie".

We'll briefly introduce each of the programs listed above.

- Caller Picture

The Caller Picture
The buttons in the bottom are: "Add/Edit/Delete contact", "Add/Edit/Delete picture"

When you have many contacts, you may not recognize everyone in a short time. The caller picture program helps you to distinguish every contact by his/her picture.

Caller picture editing window
Text from left to right, up to down are: "Picture location", "Preview", "Cancel",
"Display Settings", "Thumbnail Size", "Use Font/Color Settings", "Options",
"Use Custom Ringtone Settings", "Options"

Left: Font Settings
Mid.: Custom Ringtone Settings
Right: The incoming call preview window

You can set the pictures, ringtones, or even the notification window's font style for each contact with just a few clicks.

- Ringtone Settings

The Ringtone Settings

This program enhances the ringtone function. It enables more ring tone formats, such as SMAF, to be supported by the system. Unfortunately, it's not able to change event sounds like the alarm. Nevertheless, it still remains as a great enhancement.

- JAVA Manager

Left: Splash picture
Mid.: The "About" information
Right: Main scenery; Text: "Install application", the four folders are categories

Windows Mobile itself does not support JAVA programs, but the JAVA Manager makes it possible. With it, you can install, run, and manage JAVA applications on your WM phone. It uses iaJET solution, which supports the J2ME standard.

- Speech Commander

The Speech Commander; the text shows the usage instructions

Maybe you have had encountered mobile phones that use "voice tag" as the voice control, but this program is just different from them. All you have to do is to press the button of the Speech Commander on the keypad, and then... you just need to tell it what to do. The integrated engine makes it possible to recognize your voice without training or voice tag recordings!

Take calling "Darren Lin" as an example. When the program instructs you, "Say command", you can say "Call Darren Lin's mobile", for example, and the program will find the matching record and than ask you "Call Darren Lin, Mobile. Confirm, cancel, or redial?"

Text above: "Call Darren Lin, confirm or cancel?"
Menu bar: "Restart", "Options"

If you simply said "Call Darren Lin", and Darren Lin happens to have more than one phone number, the Speech Commander will then list the numbers available, you'll hear: "Darren Lin, mobile, home, or cancel?"

Text above: "Darren Lin, Home: 223456789, Mobile: 0987654321"
Menu bar: "Restart", "Options"

When you have plenty of contacts in your phone, sometimes it's a hassle to find someone in your phone list. The Speech commander enables you to find your contact by simply saying the contact's name. This is similar to the process of actually calling someone, just ask the program the party you want to call, and the program gives it to you!

Here we made a little test of its name recognition ability. We added two contacts "Darren Lin" and "Darren Lee", which sound similar. And the result was fantastic.

"Darren Lin" and "Darren Lee"

Download: Recognition ability test

If you don't have the number in your Contact list, you could simply say "Digital Dial" to tell the program the number you want to dial.

Text above:
Left: "Say number, valid length: 3, 9, 10"
Right: "2468135790, confirm, cancel, or redial?"

In addition, there are voice commands for opening programs as well. For example, if you want to open Windows Media, simply say "Open Windows Media", and just as you wish, the program repeats the program name "Windows Media", and Windows Media would be started.

Text above: "Open Windows Media"
Download: Open Windows Media

The Speech Commander program brings you an almost "hands-free" environment, as all you have to do is just press the button -- the "Speech Commander" button! Isn't it great?

- Pocket Genie

The previous review at our site had introduced it briefly, but the new version of Pocket Genie comes along with several changes. Pocket Genie functions as the P50's photo and video capturing, editing, and transferring program. You can create and personalize your own pictures or video clips in simple steps.

Text above:
Tab text: "Image", "Video Clip"
Menu bar text: "Edit", "View", "Tools",
"Camera", "Browse", "Viewing Style", "Slide Show"

The Pocket Genie comes with a fancy interface. It may seem hard to operate at first, but in fact, it's just a "WYSIWYG" program.

- Photo/Video Viewing

Pocket Genie can open many photo and video formats, and its method of operation is similar to that of many picture viewing programs, so it becomes easy to handle in no time.

Changing file view options

When Pocket Genie is launched, the first thing that appears is the file list window. You can switch folders by clicking the "Browse" button, and select the file view option as "Large Icons", "Small Icons", or "Detailed Information".

Browsing with the folder tree

When you click on one picture, the program will show a viewing window. You can zoom in/zoom out the picture, and enable quick preview window which offers a brief view of whole picture.

Left: Video Playback, selecting playback speed
Mid.: Photo viewing
Right: Photo viewing with quick preview window enabled

In both picture viewing and video playback modes, Pocket Genie offers a "Slide Show" function to show the pictures or video in sequential or random slide shows. This can be set in the "Settings" window.

The Slide Show mode

Also, Pocket Genie can perform basic file functions like copy, move, delete, or even send files via email, mms, IrDA, or Bluetooth.

Sending a message

Notice the "Camera" button in the menu bar? We'll introduce that later.

- Photo/Video Taking

When the "Camera" button (or the hardware button) is pressed, the program will go into shooting mode.

Shooting mode

Perhaps you will have the same question like me: "How do I record video clips?"

Switching to Video Recording mode

Just click on the camera icon, then it will be ready for video taking. Isn't it simple? You can adjust the brightness and the contrast to get better results... Okay, say cheese!

Here are two samples that were taken with the P50. Notice that the Pocket Genie can do digital zooming while recording videos. However it can only record as MPEG-4 format now, the H.263 format is no longer supported in video recording.

Download: Image sample

Download: Sample video clip (The video clip has been converted into DIVX format)

The photo seems to be a little blur... I'm not sure if it was my fault :~

- Picture Editing

Now, you've just taken some pictures, and you want to share them with your friends. Hum... but the pictures are just not interesting at all! So, it's time to play tricks on the pictures.

The way to enter the picture editing mode is a little weird, you will have to enter the photo viewing window first, then select "Edit picture" in the "Tool" menu.

The weird operation

Adjusting the hue

In editing mode, you can apply some effects, add a frame, or put text or drawings on the photo. There's a particularly fun effect: "Morph".

Look what I've done to Taipei 101.. :p

Morphing the picture

When you're satisfied with changes you've made, don't forget to save the file. Note that, the program will create a duplicate when it's in the editing mode, thus it would not overwrite the existing file.

Text selected: "Save"

Having fun is just a part of daily life, isn't it?

When you're done with your masterpieces, you can put them into your own blog using the built-in Wi-Fi, or send to your friends via IrDA, Bluetooth, MMS, or E-mail. The P50 makes it easy and fun to share your daily life with others. ;)

Daily Life Applications

- Clock Screensaver

As we know, WM system itself doesn't have a screensaver function, so as a result, BENQ has built one into the P50.

Upon enabling the Screensaver function in Backlight settings, or alternatively, pressing and holding "Space" button in the "Today" screen, the screensaver can be activated.

Left: The Clock Screensaver
Right: The screensaver settings; text above: "Enable screensaver"

The screensaver properties are not changeable though. However, we can at least get the time displayed more clearly. :p

- Recon

Do you have a living room full of remote controllers? TV, DVD player, Air conditioner, Sound system... balabalah... It's just a mess with so many remote controllers around.

Now, the Recon program helps you to manage your electronics easily with your P50.

The main window
Menu bar text: "Options", "Help"

P50's enhanced IrDA transmission module helps you to take control over everything from a good distance, so you'll never need to stand next to your TV set any more!

The Recon has some built-in controller settings, you can simply add them into your controller list, or using the "Learning Wizard" to create your own controller.

Left: Selecting from devices list
Mid.: Add device by the Learning Wizard
Right: The Learning Wizard

After the process of adding devices, you can then start to use your new remote controller -- the P50. In the controller window, you can assign function keys to the eight hardware buttons: The four directions of the joystick, and the other four being the "Recording", "Contact", "Appointments", and "Camera" buttons. Note that the Recon program will take control of all the hardware buttons, regardless of whether you have assigned them or not.

Left: The Controller window
--- Menu text - L: "Add", "Delete", "Learn", "Move", "Assign button", "Display tip text", "Reset all", "Quit"
--- Menu text - R: "Up", "Down", "Left", "Right", "B1", "B2", "B3", "B4"

When in learning mode, press the key that you want Recon to learn, and the program will show a wizard window with instructions like this.

The Learning Wizard, the text above was the instructions.

After setting up the Recon, you can now lay back on your couch, and enjoy the convenience that P50 brings to you. ;)

Conclusion: It serves its purpose well!

So far, we've introduced the P50's hardware and software. The goodies do not seem much, but they are rather adequate. Though P50's hardware specs are not top-notch in the WM Phone arena, the software that comes with it has enhanced its functionality so much. The Wi-Fi and the Bluetooth support also make users to access the Internet without adding any other cards or devices.

In the next part, we'll have a brief look into its connectivity, and introduce other programs, and some usage hints to provide you a better experience and more efficient ways to operate WM based phones.